Harstad Harmonium

For the last few months we’ve been on the look-out for a harmonium (also known as a pump orgel / trøorgel / reed organ, etc). Whilst largely consigned to the dump, or used as sideboards in other countries, the harmonium is almost ubiquitous in Norway, and can give a very evocative and expressive sound. We have a variety of these instruments around the parish, but none were available to move the church in  Finnsnes where we occasionally use one for our Våpenhus concert series.

My first encounter with a harmonium was in the choir room of the methodist church where we grew up: several of us used to enjoy seeing how fast we could pump the foot bellows and therefore how loud we could make it play. I don’t think we did it any good, and in addition some of the stop came off in ones hand (I don’t think we were responsible for that). It also had the classic wheeze caused by perished bellows.

Anyway, last week one came up for sale very cheap on finn.no (the Norwegian equivalent of ebay). Given that it looked relatively modern in the pictures and the seller assured me it worked, on Friday afternoon I set off with a friend on the 8 hour round trip to collect it from a small village near Harstad, south of Finssnes. I had constructed a trolley to save carrying the instrument, and before we set off I checked the dimensions to make sure it would fit in the car. In the event the trolley immediately collapsed (weak wood) under the weight, and it turned out to be about 2cm to big for the car. Thankfully the top of the case could be removed allowing it to fit: just!

Other than a couple of asthmatic sounding reeds, it plays well and it’s now residing in the ventilation plant room in our church offices, awaiting a little TLC (removing the ‘clean your teeth’ stickers from the case, and wiping the numbers off the keys). Here is the view the previous owner had across their fjord, and pictures of the harmonium in it’s new home (for the really geeky):


Some people may remember the ventilation room from a couple of years ago: Sarah used to practice there on a borrowed instrument.

It was also the venue for a couple of spoof classical music videos, filmed for the annual parish ‘revue’ known as mørketidsfest (dark time festival), marking the beginning of the polar night. We’ve hesitated about releasing the videos publicly (not necessarily our best performances), but here is one for now, and if there’s a demand, we’ll release another. Just remember: it’s not supposed to be serious!!!!!


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